15 answers

Eliminating All Dairy/soy from Diet of Breastfeeding Mom


My almost 4-month-old son is not gaining well and isn't nursing well, and hasn't for about 3 months. The GI specialist told us that he suspects that my son is allergic to milk and soy. I had cut out milk, cheese, yogurt, etc., but it hasn't helped, so now the GI doc said to cut out all dairy and hidden dairy/soy ingredients (whey, casein, etc.). Has anyone done this...and if so, what did you eat? What was the result?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

When my ten y/o son was a year old he developed severe GI issues. It was to the point that the pediatric GI asked me to only breastfeed and to eliminate all dairy/soy and wheat. Not easy to do, but it DID help. It wasn't evident overnight that it was helping but he did slowly improve. He now has no GI issues.
You have to carefully read all labels, soy in particular is in many, many items.
Good Luck.

More Answers

First, let me say that YOU CAN DO THIS!! I strongly believe breastmilk is best for my daughter and have been dairy and soy free for 6 months so far (my daughter is 6 1/2 months old). It was hard at first, but you get used to it and it becomes almost second nature.

I am going to post below a bunch of websites that I have found as I tried to learn what I can and can not eat. I don't think my daughter has a dairy allergy, but she definitely has a sensitivity. I would also recommend saving some of your breastmilk that you have now in a deep freezer, so that when you are ready to try to reintroduce dairy in your diet you can "test" with a bottle of the "dairy breastmilk" rather than eating something and having your baby go through days/weeks of an upset tummy. I tested last week and found that my daughter just isn't ready yet. I'll try again at 7 months or so. I have read that a sensitivity to dairy and soy can start to get better around 6 months...

Anyways, here are the websites I've found. Good luck to you!!!


One more thing - I have learned that Kosher foods (they will have a K or "Pareve" on the packaging usually don't have dairy in them. If there is a K with a D next to it, that usually means it either has dairy or was made in a facility where dairy is handled. I have done a lot more shopping in the kosher section of my grocery store and it makes it easier...

Again - Good luck!!


1 mom found this helpful

How long has it been since you cut the foods out? It generally takes 2-3 WEEKS for it to completely pass out of your system so that it is no longer considered an irritant for the baby.

Also, what are they considering 'not gaining well'? A breast fed baby should be gaining 4-6 oz per week, and have 6-8 diaper changes in a day.

Many doctors use a chart for formula fed babies or a mix of breastfed and formula fed to gauge weight gain. So their charts are incorrect for an exclusively breast fed baby.

4 months could also be a growth spurt or teething (my son started teething at 3 month, but the first tooth didn't actually cut thru till about 8 months), which could also be causing him to not nurse well.

Hi M.,

At about 4 months also, my son had awful eczema, spit up like crazy after eating, and writhed in pain during nursing. I talked to my ped. and he said we could try prilosec or something like that, but I didn't want to get straight to meds. After looking on the internet about eczema in children, I learned that many times it's caused by a food allergy, often dairy. I cut all dairy out of my diet. It was VERY difficult at first. I'm a "dairy queen" - milk with dinner, cheese on everything... But it does get easier and you find alternatives. I actually dropped alot of the baby weight once I quit dairy. I didn't have to quit soy, so I can't comment there, although I know that it's best to limit a child's soy intake period. For that reason, I did Rice Dream milk, Rice Dream cheese, goat milk yogurt. I'm not crazy about the yogurt, but my son liked it once he started solids. He didn't know any different! At nearly 2 years old, he loooooves his cheese and milk. I do hope he grows out of it, which "they say" he will by the time he's 3 -5 years old.

If I remember correctly, once I cut the dairy, my son's skin cleared up in about 2 weeks and he almost immediately was spitting up less and was more comfortable. At his 1 year bloodwork visit, we did confirm a dairy allergy.

Good luck! There are some great recipe books for food allergy cooking and baking. Also check out http://www.foodallergymama.com/

My daughter became serverly lactose intolerant in seventh grade and we had to cut out all dairy/soy ingredients for 3 months until her system settled down and then we were able to give her pills before eating dairy. My advice is to read the ingrediants carefully. I found most breads and breadcrumbs had whey (but a few brands don't, our local store brand didn't). We ate a lot of meat and vegetables, potatoes etc.. You can use lactose free milk to cook with and Lactaid has a web site with receipes. Good luck

Hi, M.:

Contact your local breast feeding consultant at La leche League International at:


Hope this helps. D.

I would see if the baby suffers from any possible acid reflux and try baby prilosec. I know a few people that had a problem like that. My son was born at 35 weeks and his muscles in his stomach were not fully developed. Me pediatrician said at 1yr he will be fine and he was and still is at 7yrs. I also had to let him sleep in an elevated position. Try not to eat onions and garlic and see if anything changes. My kids hated that taste in my milk. Oh also I had to nurse my little one all the time to get him to gain weight. It worked

Hi, M.!
I agree very strongly w/ Donna--you need to talk to a La Leche League Leader very, very badly!
I hate to argue w/ your doctor, but I find it very hard to believe that an allergy is involved based on just those "symptoms". Believe it or not, most health care providers know virtually NOTHING about the inticacies of breastfeeding. Usually, when a baby has an allergy/intollerence, it's very obvious--they have severe eczema, diarrhea, mucus in stool, SEVERE colic, severe spitting up/vomiting, etc....

Babies come in all shapes & sizes & some are just very, very tiny & grow very, very slowly. Both of my kids were like this! My daughter was only 16 lbs at a YEAR & my son was about the same (usually boys are much heftier!). Some kids are much more efficient than others are too & will get right down to business & nurse like champs & finish up very quickly.--It might seem as though they're not nursing for very long, but they're just efficient at it.

The BEST way (really, the ONLY way) to tell how much a child is taking in is to monitor diaper output. As long as they're having 6+ wet diapers a day (at least 1 oz of urine), that's plenty. Keep in mind too that disposable diapers absorb & hide liquid very well, so you can put a tissue in the diaper when in doubt. Also, remember that breastfed babies will often go as long as 7-10 days w/o pooping since there's so little waste in breastmilk.

I think that everything is likely just fine & that you just have one of those babies who's a slower gainer than the "average" baby. After all, not every baby can be on the 50th percentile! There wouldn't BE a 50% percentile if there weren't kids below the 3rd & above the 95th!--Every baby is different. As long as yours is meeting developmental goals more/less on time & is healthy & happy, everything is likely fine.

Hang in there & keep up the good work!!!

Hi M.,

First let me say I am sorry you are going through this. I went through this myself and eliminated everything from my diet for about 13 months until my daughter outgrew her symptoms. Her symptoms, however, were different as she gained weight and grew well all along, but she had very pronounced bloody stools leading to the milk-soy intolerance diagnosis. Is your son having loose bowel movements or other symptoms? I know how you feel as I did not want to give up breastfeeding, but I did have to compromise when she was 8 months and had to give her a combination of formula and breastmilk as even with everything out of my diet she was still having bloody stools every once in a while. I am a working mom so my husband did the formula during the day and whenever I was home I breastfed. Eliminating milk/soy from your diet is challenging almost every pre-packaged food has some components of milk or soy to stabilize them so cooking your own food is very important. I purchased the "Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook" and it helped me stay on the diet because it gave options for sweets (very important to me), breakfast foods, and meals that my husband and I could both eat. The changes can be made, but it takes initial effort to buy the correct ingredients and as time goes on it becomes more of a habit. To start out you should stick to natural foods, veggies, meats (I was told to avoid red meat which was easy as I don't it to begin with), and whole grains. Shopping at Whole Foods was also helpful as they have a wide selection of allergen free foods. I used rice milk (not particularly tasty but works for cooking) and Whole Foods carries coconut milk yogurts and ice cream which are quite good. Also if this is a true allergy it will be important for you to double check all baby food (once you start with solids for him) as even baby foods including cereals etc have soy and milk components. If you have further questions feel free to ask. It has only been 9 months since I was able to eat "cheese" again and the experience is fresh in my mind! Last thing...it was totally worth it for me!! Good luck with everything!

With my daughter I eliminated all forms of dairy, egg, peanut, treenuts, rice, rye, and soy. I was on that diet for 3years. I would check out http://www.foodallergy.org/ and order the list of ingredients on cards that you need to avoid. Take them with you when you shop. Your next few trips to the grocery store will take a lot longer because you need to read all the labels, but once you figure out what is safe and what is not, it becomes easy again. Most fresh unprocessed meat is safe. Most fresh veggies and fruits are safe. So making meals using all fresh ingredients helps alot. You will likely not be able to eat many packaged or processed foods, but this is actually healthy. You can find some prepackaged foods by reading lables. Be especially careful with bread as so many contain dairy. Good luck and it is totally possible to do this and still eat very well.

It alarms me that your specialist "suspects" this and is having you cut it all out while your baby is so small and needs ALL nutrients. PLEASE get a second and third opinion. Lactose intolerance and dairy allergies are EXTREMELY over diagnosed. It's always the first thing they knock out. Meanwhile those products contain daily amounts of protein, calcium, essential fats, etc that are very hard to replace when babies are tiny. You want to be SURE that is the problem before the highly risky measure of removing them.

Soy is already a weak substitute for actual milk-the proteins are different and should be addition to various dairy products, not replace them entirely and again, the essential fat is what is most valuable in dairy for brain development. Replacing both seems incredibly risky. Just make sure.

I am a vegetarian, and have several vegan friends. Their nursing was not adequate for their babies and they've had to quit, and there have been other stories of malnourished children of vegan moms. I had to beg one friend to not put her moral choices on her baby and she finally started giving him organic dairy products when his weight and development were off. I had to remind her that as a baby her mom gave her milk and was not vegan. I know you're not doing it morally, but the results would be the same.

Do your research-meat is not the same as dairy-in case you're keeping that, and don't count on only veggies delivering all that calcium protein and fat.
My doctor told me to cut milk for my daughter because of her skin, and when I quizzed him on how to replace the nutrients (I had already researched it), he had no idea. Most doctors are not nutritionists! Be careful.


Although I don't have an answer for you, if your GI specialist is from CHOP, they also have a nutritionist. I would suggest calling the office tomorrow and explaining what you did to us, and asking to speak with the nutritionist ASAP. They should be able to give you the answer.

I agree with Amy J...honestly. Doctors only recieve 10 hours of nutrition classes....(meaning that is nothing). Do your research. There is so much info out there. I know alot of people out there that are allergic, and yes whole foods may help you out for a bit, but you can go to a reg store and buy what you need. My daughter was allergic to milk, but grew out of it...I gave her soy when I stopped breastfeeding. I drank soy when I was breastfeeding...

When my ten y/o son was a year old he developed severe GI issues. It was to the point that the pediatric GI asked me to only breastfeed and to eliminate all dairy/soy and wheat. Not easy to do, but it DID help. It wasn't evident overnight that it was helping but he did slowly improve. He now has no GI issues.
You have to carefully read all labels, soy in particular is in many, many items.
Good Luck.

Not sure, but are whey and casein parts of gluten? If so, there are lots of "gluten-free" foods. Sorry I couldn't be more help, just thought I'd give it a shot! :)Good luck!

PS- we need some dietician mommies on board for this!

Aww man! I see "whole foods" in your future-LOL. We are Gluten-free and limit dairy and soy here due to my sons allergies. It is hard and expensive!- boo. We buy mostly organic (because the ingredient list is much smaller and much easier to read-lol). Lots of homemade steaks, chicken, rice pasta and veggies.
We use rice yogurt/rice milk and goats yogurt/goats milk.

Good Luck!

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